<![CDATA[NBC Boston - Health News]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcboston.com/news/health http://media.nbcboston.com/designimages/clear.gif NBC Boston http://www.nbcboston.comen-usThu, 19 Oct 2017 07:05:41 -0400Thu, 19 Oct 2017 07:05:41 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Race Against Time With Usher Syndrome]]> Wed, 18 Oct 2017 00:20:39 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Race_Against_Time_With_Usher_Syndrome.jpg

Usher Syndrome is a cruel disease that robs you of your hearing and your sight. A brother and sister in Newton, Massachusetts, both have it, and her family is working to help find a cure.

<![CDATA[3 Family Members Hospitalized for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning]]> Fri, 13 Oct 2017 17:02:03 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Family_Recovering_From_CO_Poisoning_in_Plymouth.jpg

Mike and Joanne Penza and Mike's mother, Netta, turned on the heat in their home, then became sick. Family said Mike called his brother when he had symptoms and someone came over to check on them, calling 911 right away.

"It's scary because you can't smell it or see it," said Jason Nali, their nephew, who transported their four dogs for treatment, as well. "You hear all the time people pass away in their sleep from this."

Nali said they were all experiencing different symptoms, including chest pains and being delirious and unable to stand.

The Plymouth Fire Department responded right away and determined carbon monoxide was the issue, and that the heating system was the source. They said an expert needed to come in now to see exactly what went wrong within the heating systems.

Nali said their alarm was going off, but it might have gone off too late.

"The alarm did go off, but at that point, everyone was confused and disoriented," said Nali.

Their neighbor of 33 years, Steve Madden, said you can never be too careful. He said he checks his carbon monoxide detectors regularly.

"Anytime you see something like that, you always worry it could be something fatal or something bad has happened," said Madden.

Nali is relieved 911 was called right away.

"This could have been a very different situation," said Nali.

The family and their dogs will be treated overnight. A family member said Mike's CO levels are still very high and not coming down as fast as they would like. He will be put into a hyperbaric chamber in hopes that will change, but he might need to be transferred to a Boston-area hospital. The carbon monoxide levels could cause some heart damage, according to medical officials.

<![CDATA[America's Obesity Epidemic Reaches Record High: Report]]> Fri, 13 Oct 2017 01:23:56 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/AP_668885564479.jpg

Almost 40 percent of American adults are obese, the highest rate ever recorded for the United States, according to a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly 20 percent of adolescents are obese, also a record high, NBC News reported. That comes out to one in five adolescents aged 12-19. Meanwhile, one in five kids aged 6-11 and one in 10 preschoolers aged 2-5 are obese.

"It's difficult to be optimistic at this point," said Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "The trend of obesity has been steadily increasing in both children and adults."

Obesity is medically defined as having a body-mass index of more than 30. Overweight and obese children have a higher risk to stay obese and childhood obesity is linked to a higher chance of early death in adulthood.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File]]>
<![CDATA[Experts Say Trump Order Could Upend Health Care System]]> Thu, 12 Oct 2017 16:02:10 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/AP_17285593800516.jpg

With Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare stalled, President Donald Trump issued a new executive order on Thursday that could undermine the law without Congress.

Experts say it has the potential to upend the current health care system for small businesses and individuals by opening up cheaper options for some customers, while spiking costs for others and encouraging more insurers to flee Obamacare’s exchanges.

Healthier customers, especially those making too much to qualify for subsidies, could abandon the exchanges for skimpier association plans, prompting insurers to hike premiums for the remaining sicker pool of customers.

Insurers and their customers won’t know the full effect of the executive order any time soon. It will likely take months, perhaps even a year or more, for agencies to examine the issues, propose new rules and then finalize them.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci]]>
<![CDATA[Groundbreaking Work to Transplant Hep C-Infected Kidneys]]> Thu, 12 Oct 2017 08:54:06 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Groundbreaking_Procedure_to_Combat_Hepatitis_C.jpg

Massachusetts General Hospital is working to transplant kidneys infected with Hepatitis C into patients who don't have it. Kristy Lee reports.

<![CDATA[Whole Foods Recalls Its Raisin Bran for Undeclared Peanuts]]> Mon, 09 Oct 2017 13:32:05 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/whole-foods-recall.jpg

Whole Foods Market has recalled some of its 365 Everyday Value Organic Raisin Bran across the country because the cereal contains undeclared peanuts, the Food and Drug Administration and grocery chain said. 

Boxes of the cereal contained Peanut Butter Cocoa Balls, the recall announcement said. Peanuts can cause a serious and sometimes life-threatening reaction for people who are allergic to the nuts. 

Whole Foods' voluntary recall is for 15 oz. boxes labeled "365 Everyday Value Organic Raisin Bran" with UPC code 9948243903 and a best-by date of June 4, 2018. The items were sold across the United States and online through Amazon.com. No reactions have been reported, Whole Foods and the FDA said on Friday. 

Customers can receive a full refund at stores with a valid receipt. Those with questions may call 1-844-936-8255 from 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. CST on weekdays, or between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends.

<![CDATA[14 Desperate Days: Anatomy of an Opioid Overdose Outbreak]]> Mon, 09 Oct 2017 10:34:00 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/fentanyl+10-09.PNG

An alert Georgia emergency room doctor who saw three strange overdose cases apparently related to the drug Percocet sounded the alarm to the Georgia Poison Center this June, NBC News reported, likely saving lives in an epidemic that began when a man arrived in Macon with a batch of little yellow pills.

Over two weeks, health officials dealt with 40 more cases like the first woman's, who took four hours to be revived after Narcan was administered. Six resulted in deaths.

When that first patient came to, she ripped a breathing tube out of her throat. "In the slightest of a whisper, she said she took a Percocet," Dr. Gregory Whatley said.

But after Whatley scrambled the poison center, which alerted local and federal investigators, toxicology tests determined that the pills weren't the opioid Percocet, but a new type of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 50 times stronger than heroin.

Photo Credit: NBC 7, File]]>
<![CDATA[FDA: Drug Shortages Possible Due to Puerto Rico Power Outage]]> Fri, 06 Oct 2017 19:45:08 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/PRmedicine_1200x675.jpg

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday warned that U.S. drug shortages are possible because power outages in Puerto Rico have stopped or limited production at many medicine factories there.

Nearly 10 percent of the medicines used by Americans, plus numerous medical devices, are made in Puerto Rico, which lost most electricity when it was hit hard by Hurricane Maria about two weeks ago.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement that the agency is working to prevent shortages of about 40 crucial medicines. He has declined to identify those medicines but said Friday that the FDA would disclose any shortages if they occur; drug shortages are routinely listed on the FDA's website.

"We're keeping a close watch on the most critical medical products," Gottlieb said.

The FDA is working with drugmakers and device manufacturers, who are trying to restore partial operations with backup generators, according to the statement. In the most urgent cases, the FDA is helping companies get fuel to keep their generators running and ship finished products.

At a news conference Thursday, Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello said power has been restored to 9 percent of customers. The government hopes to have the power back on for a quarter of the island within a month, and for the entire territory of 3.4 million people by March.

Gottlieb said the power disruptions could cause new medicine shortages and exacerbate shortages that existed before Hurricane Maria, and Irma before that, slammed the island.

At least for now, drugmakers say they should be able to prevent shortages by moving around inventory and, in some cases, increasing production at factories in other locations already making those products.

Medicines made in Puerto Rico include AstraZeneca's cholesterol drug Crestor, antibiotics and drugs for inflammation from Pfizer and Roche's Accu-Chek blood sugar test strips for diabetics. Eli Lilly makes the active ingredient for its diabetes medicines on the island. And Amgen, a huge biotech drugmaker, produces most of its medicines there, including widely used rheumatoid drug Enbrel, a number of cancer drugs, heart failure drug Corlanor and osteoporosis drugs Prolia and Xgeva.

Hurricane Maria didn't cause major damage to the roughly 80 medicine and device factories but many have needed cleanup and some repairs, according to several companies contacted by The Associated Press. The companies said operations were also hampered because workers couldn't get to factories and they were dealing with damage to their homes.

The medical products industry, which set up a large base in Puerto Rico decades ago to take advantage of since-expired tax advantages, is key to the financial health of the debt-laden territory. The FDA said medicines and medical devices account for about 30 percent of Puerto Rico's gross domestic product, and about 80 percent of those products are used by residents of Puerto Rico and the 50 states.

Photo Credit: AP/Ramon Espinosa, File]]>
<![CDATA[How to Deal With Tragedy And Talk About It With Family]]> Tue, 03 Oct 2017 12:13:36 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/20171002+Hug.JPG

Feeling overwhelmed, powerless or angry as you watch news of another mass shooting, this one in Las Vegas? Those feelings are normal, even for people who don't have ties to Nevada or anyone there, according to counselors. 

There are tools that can help in handling those emotional reactions. NBC10 Philadelphia's Tracy Davidson spoke to a counselor in the area Monday about what you and those you love can do.

Q: I feel overwhelmed by the news. How do I process this?
A: Each person's reaction to a tragedy is unique to that individual and that's OK, said Dana Careless, a counselor from the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services.

Some people disconnect and shut off communication while others are active on social media, looking for answers and trying to stay informed. No matter how you deal with tragedy, it is important to take care of yourself. If you start to feel overwhelmed, "take a step back, take a deep breath, and disconnect if you need to," Careless said.

Q: What things can I do to take care of myself?
A: Self-care is doubly important while we try to cope with trauma. Do what makes you happy or calms you down. Careless runs; some people choose yoga or swimming. Others need quiet time meditating, praying or listening to music. Careless said journaling can help some people.

Q: What should I do if I start to feel overwhelmed?
A: "It can be really, really easy to get caught up in all the information, to keep clicking and clicking," Careless said. She suggested people focus on staying grounded. Using your five senses can help you settle into the moment, she said; wherever you are, find five things you see, four things you hear, three things you touch, two things you smell and one thing you taste. Remember to take your time and breathe — in through your nose, out through your mouth, she said. 

Q: What if my children ask me about the event?
A: Careless suggested parents be open with children, if children want to talk. Don't shut down conversation or tell them to "get over it," she said. Try to normalize the discussion and reiterate to them that it is okay to be upset or confused by the tragedy. On the other hand, if they don't want to talk, give them some space until they feel like engaging. If your children seem to be struggling more than usual, consider reaching out for help or following up on their condition.

Q: How long will it take to heal and move on?
A: Every person’s process is different. The way you begin to heal is individual, so do what is necessary to help start the process. If you or a loved one start to have irregular habits, such as lack of sleep or oversleeping, that continue past two weeks, consider talking to someone who can help.

The federal government's mental health agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has a 24-hour Disaster Relief Helpline. If you would like free support or counseling, contact them at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Big Y Pharmacies to Offer Naloxone Without Prescription]]> Mon, 02 Oct 2017 11:52:23 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/BIG-Y-GENERIC.jpg

Big Y Pharmacy and Wellness Centers will offer naloxone without a prescription in all pharmacies across Massachusetts and Connecticut, the company announced Monday.

The move is an effort to help prevent opioid-related deaths. Naloxone is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Pharmacists are trained to show patients and family members how to recognize an overdose and deliver the life-saving treatment.

In 2016, there were 917 deaths attributed to overdoses in Connecticut. A report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released earlier this year shows the rate of opioid-related emergency room visits in the state was among the highest in the nation in 2014.

Massachusetts also suffers from the epidemic, with nearly 2,000 overdose deaths in 2016. The same Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report showed that Massachusetts had the highest rate of emergency room visits in the country in 2014.

The 2017 data from Connecticut shows that number of fatal overdoses continues to climb. Naloxone can be used to combat overdoses from a variety of opioids including oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, codeine and heroin. 

“Many of our pharmacists have contributed their professional expertise during panels at local opioid epidemic forums in our communities. The ability to now offer naloxone without a prescription to our patients and their families is just another way we can help them prevent an accidental overdose, save lives and allow our patients the opportunity to seek long-term treatment,” wrote Big y Director of Pharmacy Nicole D’Amour Schneider in a statement.

Big Y has 39 pharmacy locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut. To locate a location, click here.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Baby Belly Breakthrough]]> Thu, 28 Sep 2017 23:43:56 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Baby_Belly_Breakthrough.jpg

For some women, no matter how much they exercise, their stomachs are never flat after having babies. And there may be a medical reason for it.

<![CDATA[October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month]]> Sun, 01 Oct 2017 16:22:57 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/228*120/komen31.jpg

October is the 32nd anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

When people know more about breast cancer, early detection rates rise and lives are saved. Breast cancer is a wide spread disease that knows no boundaries and does not discriminate.

Since the inception of Susan G. Komen, progress has been made, however, there still much more to be done.

This October, Susan G. Komen is drawing increased attention to metastatic breast cancer as it works to achieve its goal to reduce breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50 percent by 2026.

While breast cancer death rates have declined steadily, 40,000 women and men still die each year from breast cancer, and that is what must change.

Metastatic breast cancer – breast cancer that has spread to the lungs, liver, brain or bones – is responsible for the vast majority of those deaths.

Komen New England invites you to be More Than Pink this Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To learn more, get involved, or attend an event visit KomenNewEngland.org.

<![CDATA[Should Nurses Be Required to Get Flu Shots?]]> Wed, 27 Sep 2017 17:58:10 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Nurses_Fight_Flu_Vaccination_Requirement.jpg

A union representing thousands of nurses at a Massachusetts hospital says a new rule unfairly punishes members who refuse a flu shot.

According to the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents nurses at Brigham and Women's Hospital, says those who refuse to cooperate and get shots could lose their jobs.

"It's a dramatic overreach that will not result in better flu prevention," the union said in a statement. "Nurses, not their employer, should decide what goes into their bodies."

The union also noted some nurses have had bad reactions to the vaccine.

The MNA's lawsuit claims the hospital is violating a state rule that allows health care workers to decline vaccinations.

Brigham and Women's says more than 90 percent of its nurses were vaccinated last year.

"The hospital has a responsibility to provide the safest possible environment for our patients, their families and our employees," the hospital said in a statement.

Hospital officials added that influenza can carry significant health risks, especially with someone who has a compromised immune system.

The rule is not just nurses. The hospital told all 18,000 of its employees last week about the new policy. For now, the only exceptions are for medical or religious reasons, and employees who go without the flu shot need to wear face masks around patients.

Back in 2014, the union sued the hospital after a similar vaccination policy was proposed. The hospital did not end up enforcing that rule.

The new policy will go into effect Sunday, and the hospital says employees have until December first to get their flu shots.

Photo Credit: NBC Boston]]>
<![CDATA['Manufactured Death': Opioids Killing Dozens Each Day]]> Wed, 27 Sep 2017 16:58:11 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Feds_Release_Warning_After_2_CT_Carfentanil_Deaths.jpg

Pointing out that more people are dying from drug overdoses than in terror attacks on a daily basis, federal and state authorities in Massachusetts joined forces to warn the public about the gravity of the ongoing opioid epidemic and the dangers of extremely potent drugs becoming prevalent.

"Synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil are manufactured death. Plain and simple," said DEA New England Special Agent in Charge Michael Ferguson. "These poisons are killing at an alarming rate."

Ferguson spoke alongside police and fire officials Tuesday afternoon at an event hosted at the state police headquarters in Framingham, explaining that opioids claim dozens of lives each day across the country.

The DEA has said carfentanil, which is designed to be an elephant tranquilizer, is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and about 10,000 times stronger than morphine.

"We all agree about how horrific the San Bernardino and Orlando terrorist incidents were, culminating in the death of 60 innocent individuals," Ferguson said. "But what we are having is equivalent of multiple San Bernardino and Orlando tragedies happening every day across this country. Ninety-one of our neighbors, friends, coworkers and loved ones are dying every day from an opioid-related overdose, with increasing deaths due to fentanyl and fentanyl-related compounds."

State Police Col. Richard McKeon says federal and local law enforcement agencies are targeting "drug trafficking organizations that distribute heroin, fentanyl, and increasingly, carfentanil."

McKeon said the number of suspected overdose deaths state police detectives respond to this year is on track to meet last year's 877 overdose deaths. He added these numbers do not include the cities of Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield.

Massachusetts labs confirmed the presence of carfentanil for the first time this year in 12 cases so far. Seven of those samples were seized in the Brockton area. Two more came from Boston and Lawrence each, while one came from Dedham.

"We're taking steps to increase the safety of department members who may come in contact with fentanyl or carfentanil," McKeon said. "We're in the process of purchasing personal protective gear for all road troopers and detectives."

Additionally, K-9 units are being equipped with Narcan, as are other troopers.

McKeon also announced his support for legislation recently filed Gov. Charlie Baker, making changes to the drug schedule to reflect the dangers of newer, more powerful drugs, as well as defining the sale of drugs resulting in death as manslaughter.

<![CDATA[Dentists Offer Fast Braces]]> Thu, 28 Sep 2017 15:50:35 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Dentists_Offer_Fast_Braces.jpg

Some orthodontists are skeptical about dentists who say "fast braces" are the way of the future. The American Association of Orthodontists takes no official position, but said it "recommends the patient always seek the consult of an orthodontist to ensure thorough examination and selection of the best treatment option for their individual needs."

<![CDATA[Protesters Removed From Senate Health Care Bill Hearing]]> Mon, 25 Sep 2017 19:10:08 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/214*120/US-Health-Care-2-CR-150637884759400002.jpg

Protesters chanting "No cuts for Medicaid, save our liberty!" were forcibly removed from the Senate Finance Committee room Monday as lawmakers attempted to convene a hearing into the Republican Graham Cassidy health care bill.

<![CDATA[CVS to Limit Opioid Prescriptions to 7-Day Supply]]> Thu, 21 Sep 2017 19:27:25 -0400 http://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/cvsgeneric_1200x675.jpg

CVS Pharmacy will limit opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply for certain conditions, becoming the first national retail chain to restrict how many pain pills doctors can give patients, NBC News reported.

When filling prescriptions for opioid pills, pharmacists will also be required to talk to patients about the risks of addiction, secure storage of medications in the home and proper disposal, the retail pharmacy chain said Thursday.

The move by CVS to limit prescription opioids like OxyContin or Vicodin to a seven-day supply is a significant restriction for patients — the average pill supply given by doctors in the U.S. increased from 13 days in 2006 to 18 days in 2015, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File ]]>